They made the difference

P. Ajitha

In my decade-long association with young minds, I have experienced both exhilarating highs and dampening lows. It has and continues to be a rollercoaster ride! It has been a journey punctuated with insightful learning experiences and self-discovery brought about by engagement with some very special young people. Had it not been for such gratifying experiences, I doubt if I would ever have derived a sense of fulfilment in my teaching career. So this Teacher’s Day, I would like to dedicate this article to those students who have given me reasons to retain faith in the noble ideals that inspire the process of educating young people.

The year 2012 was a turning point in my teaching career. It was the year of many firsts. It was the first time that I was to teach senior secondary. It was the first time I started relishing the new found joy of teaching. In retrospect, it is because of one particular student that I have fond memories and recollections of this phase of my teaching career. The English curriculum in senior secondary (CBSE) allows a lot of room to conduct meaningful discussions in class as a means of deeply engaging with the reading material (text). Students are generally drawn towards activities that call for deliberation on relevant issues they are able to relate with and contribute towards a healthy exchange of views and perspectives. The kind of fresh insights such interactions with young people bring to a topic under study is amazing! It was through such lively sessions that I got drawn to a student who was a revelation in herself – Manisha K. Manisha has left an indelible mark on my mind and has given me reasons to be grateful for being in a profession where you gain a lot more than you give. It has been seven years since I had the privilege of teaching this young lady who now heads an educational start-up in Delhi. I can still recall with surprising vividness the cherubic face that used to light up whenever we had intense discussions in the class. Her feisty arguments would charge up the whole atmosphere. Such animated exchanges, which usually took off from activities conducted while extrapolating the main theme of a prose piece or the central idea of a poem, made our English classes lively and interactive. I started looking forward to these sessions with excitement. Today, when I look back at that insecure phase of my career – a phase when I wasn’t sure if I was up to the daunting task of helping teenagers appreciate the value of the printed word and perceive the power the human thought immortalized in literature – I can see how Manisha helped me discover those aspects of my personality which would have taken me years to unearth, by making me push my imagined boundaries and self-imposed limitations. Today I have no doubt as to where I truly belong and what gives me my identity! Though I had entered this profession by chance, I have continued to stay by choice primarily because of the validation that students like Manisha give me.

Another special student I ought to mention is Aishwarya R., whom I have taught for three years now. This student is a source of joy and wonder. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I have learnt a lot more from her than she from me. She is a like a moral compass I turn to, to get my bearings right. It is hard to describe in words the kind of elevated consciousness this girl has so effortlessly attained. Her company is both humbling and exalting at the same time. One cannot but help be drawn towards her. Her polite and courteous manner is heart-warming. The courtesy is not borne out of civil necessity but stems from a general goodwill towards all. What is most inspiring about her is her sincerity in carrying out every task and responsibility entrusted to her. She gives a 100 percent in every activity she is involved in. The thirst of learning, gaining mastery of self, a deeper understanding of herself and the world around her is contagious. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to study life at close quarters and her ability to sieve through the intangible mass of information and knowledge keeps the teacher motivated to embark on a journey, not of fact finding, but an exploration of life, seeking answers to larger questions if life, to divine the purpose of human existence. It may sound very unreal but take my word for it, she is not the idealized version of a student we teachers wish to have, but ‘the ideal student’ – a constant source of amazement to those privileged enough to know her and benefit from the association with her.

Today, I am grateful to be in the teaching profession, where each day brings with it, its share of delightful surprises and invaluable learning experiences. I am a better teacher today because of such gems among my students who make me what I am – a student teacher, a co-traveller in the journey of self-discovery which true education entails.

The author is an ‘accidental’ teacher, who having stumbled upon teaching by chance has stayed put by choice having found the vocation enabling as well as ennobling. She teaches at Delhi Public School, Coimbatore and can be reached at [email protected].

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